Readers of this column know the value we place on plans that focus resources and actions against strategic goals and objectives. But too often our plans turn into something resembling a dog’s breakfast: a mess of opportunity, necessity and happenstance. To avoid agronomic plans that are similarly inconsistent and random, here are three steps that will give an agronomic plan order and purpose while showcasing the author’s professionalism.
Golf course superintendents are agronomic experts with scientific training and specialized knowledge. Club and course managers are similarly well-educated professionals. They are keenly interested in the results supers produce, but not so sure how they pull it off. Therefore, superintendents’ plans must educate, providing the knowledge and understanding that help course owners, club directors and fellow management professionals see the inherent logic and forethought.
An informative agronomic plan:
States standards of excellence. Mowing and trimming frequency, height of cut and fertility programs need to be explained beyond frequency or fertilizer blends so club and course managers understand how the superintendent’s tactics connect with the facility’s overall goals and objectives. Once they do, they can become supporters of the plan.
Environmental objectives should be considered in this same context. Elements of the conservation plan should be described to help club managers understand the use of pesticides and standard practices for water taking. Information about beekeeping, bird and bat houses, and milkweed cultivation for butterflies, for example, also reinforces the facility’s overall sustainability efforts that can be passed along to members and customers.
Explains importance of standards. Many become confused when asked, “Why is that practice so important?” The superintendent who uses the agronomic plan to educate helps golfers be even more supportive and understanding.
Quantify needs. Measure everything and see that every line item in the budget is backed up with specific data points for acres or square feet being mowed, irrigated, fertilized and kept. Every number in the budget should have support tied to key data points. For example, labor – including wages and benefits – is increasing significantly in most markets across North America. Fuel prices are likely to remain volatile with the risk of sudden increases driven by geopolitical events.
Express aspiration. Describe your vision for the golf course. Be brave in setting higher standards for your facility. Describe improvements that can enhance the reputation and earning power of your course.
While there is the need to educate, club managers can become weary reading about unfamiliar agronomic standards and practices. Help hold their interest by organizing your plan. Starting from mission critical, first cover the most important topics – care and upkeep standards, expense and budget management, and expected outcomes. Then describe routine matters and needs that preserve working conditions and standards of excellence. Last, address matters such as storage needs and practices, staff training and break-room amenities.
3. Paint a Picture
Photography, video and other graphics can be highly valuable support tools for your audience. People who are not scientific experts need the additional understanding that imagery provides.
- Show intended results. Teach readers of the plan and what they should expect in terms of denser turf, deeper color in maintained turf, reduced pesticide use and reduced water consumption.
- Provide graphics for such details as mowing patterns and explain why your crew mows greens from different alignments.
- Show how carefully your usage of manpower is planned. Help others understand that you command your category of expertise with knowledge and experience.
- Support budget projections and expense trends with graphs and third-party data sources. Show the actual expense history of your course and how your own trend tracks local, regional and national patterns.